300,000 benefit claimants only get Christmas bonuses AFTER Christmas thanks to Tory welfare blunder

, by Laura Ikeji


Scrooge: Iain Duncan Smith's department still hasn't paid out some Christmas gifts

Hapless welfare chiefs only paid 300,000 sick and disabled benefit claimants a Christmas bonus after Christmas, we can reveal.

Iain Duncan Smith's department has finally admitted the vast blunder - more than three weeks after the Mirror was tipped off about a computer glitch.

A "technical error" meant 327,379 people on Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) did not receive a token £10 state gift, usually paid in the first full week of December, in time for the holiday season.

Incredibly the Mirror understands hundreds of claimants, around 0.05% of those on ESA, have still not been paid tonight and face waiting until the end of the month.

Read more: George Osborne’s cuts mean poverty for another two million children, says report

The figures were confirmed to Labour's shadow work and pensions secretary Owen Smith - who branded the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) "cruel and incompetent".

He told the Mirror: "They've now been forced to admit that 300,000 people went short because they couldn’t even manage to make a simple payment in time for the holidays.


Labour's Owen Smith said the Tories were "cruel and incompetent"

"This incompetence doesn't bode well for the implementation of Universal Credit and all the other complicated cuts the Tories are overseeing.

"People have always known the Tories are cruel, but they used to think they were at least competent.

"Iain Duncan Smith seems to be having a good go at proving they’re both cruel and incompetent."

The government pays £10 tax-free bonuses once a year to people receiving any of 19 benefits including the state pension, ESA, Carers' Allowance and long-term Incapacity Benefit.

An ESA claimant told us on December 23 that DWP staff had warned him a computer glitch would delay benefits he was due to receive before Christmas.


Sad times: There was no glimmer of Christmas joy for many benefit claimants

The 40-year-old from Liverpool said at the time: "I've got gas and electricity bills to pay and it's going to ruin Christmas not just for me, but for my kids."

But because he feared a delay to ESA itself - not the separate Christmas bonus system - DWP staff said they were not aware of any problem with ESA adding: "All payments have been paid".

When the Mirror asked for this statement in writing at the time, the DWP refused.

The dad-of-three, who asked not to be named, eventually did receive his main ESA payment at 3pm on Christmas Eve.